WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Baby Yurik Birkenmeyer had been taken away from his parents by state officials and then returned five months before police discovered his body in a hot Wyoming apartment.
Thirty-year-old Alexander Birkenmeyer and 26-year-old Andrea Todd, Yurik’s parents, are charged with child abuse and murder. If convicted, they face life in prison.
24 Hour News 8 has confirmed Todd is expecting another child at the end of the year.
On Thursday, Kent County Forensic Pathologist David Start testified at the request of the defense attorneys, who otherwise waived a preliminary hearing and sent the case to trial.
“The cause of death is dehydration,” Start said. “Manner of death is homicide, as the dehydration is the result of neglect by caregiver or caregivers.”
On March 16, Wyoming police entered the apartment near 28th Street and Clyde Park Avenue and found the child in a room with a space heater; the temperature was 85 degrees. The baby’s body temperature was at 105 degrees in places.
Start said the room’s temperature could have contributed to the death, but if the baby had been fully hydrated when he was put to bed, he likely would not have died over the course of eight hours.
“He was quite thin, had sunken eyes and also contusions of the left side of the forehead and an abrasion to the back of the head,” Start said.
Start said the abrasion was likely caused by prolonged contact with the back of a bed, infant car seat or baby carrier.
At 19 months old, Yurik weighed 22 pounds, the same as he weighed at 9 months old. Boy babies should be about 26 pounds at 19 months, according to the CDC.
The baby had multiple signs of dehydration and malnutrition, including high levels of sodium and urea nitrogen, which indicated that the kidneys were malfunctioning due to a lack of hydration. His skin also failed to snap back when it was pinched, also a sign of dehydration.
“There’s no way of knowing if this dehydration is due to a complete lack of fluids over a period of time or perhaps just inadequate fluids over a longer period of time,” Start said.
Court records show that the mother allegedly told police she heard the baby’s cries but ignored them and also canceled a doctor’s appointment for the child.
Under cross-examination by the defense attorneys, Start said it is not likely Yurik died of disease, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or asphyxiation from bedding.
“I would expect at this age he should be able to turn his head without being at risk for asphyxiate,” Start said.
The couple had another child, a girl, who died at 2 months old of undetermined causes in 2015. No charges were filed that incident.
Birkenmeyer and Todd remain in jail on a $750,000 bond